Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is very common and potentially life-threatening medical disorder that prevents airflow during sleep. More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and many are not receiving treatment.
Sleep apnea occurs when tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to all of your organs including your heart and brain. People with sleep apnea may snore loudly and stop breathing for short periods of time. When the blood-oxygen level drops low enough, the body momentarily wakes up. It can happen so fast that you may not be aware you woke up. This can happen hundreds of times a night, and you may wake up in the morning feeling unrefreshed.
In addition to snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can cause memory loss, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive and impaired concentration. Sleep apnea patients have a much higher risk of stroke and heart problems, such as heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Sleep apnea patients are also more likely to be involved in an accident at the workplace or while driving.
Schedule an Appointment For a Consultation
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea patient are often older, obese and have thick necks, but men and women of any age or body type can have sleep apnea. The sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain. Listed below are some common signs of sleep apnea:
- Unintentionally falling asleep during the day
- General daytime sleepiness
- Unrefreshed sleep
- Waking from sleep with a choking sound or gasping for breath
- Loud Snoring
If you have have these symptoms, you might have sleep apnea. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale can help you further determine if you likely have sleep apnea. If the scale shows you may have sleep apnea, schedule an appointment at an AASM Accredited Sleep Center for an overnight sleep study.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
A physician is required to perform an overnight sleep study to properly diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. The test, also known as a Polysomnogram, will chart your brain waves, heart beat and breathing during sleep. It also records arm and leg movement. A sleep specialist will take your symptoms into consideration during diagnosis. Prior to the appointment, ask your partner if you snore loudly, stop breathing or gasp for breath during the night. The sleep specialist will also want to know if you gained weight or stopped exercising before your symptoms began.
Advantages of Oral Appliance Therapy
- Oral appliances are comfortable and easy to wear. Most people find that it only takes a couple of weeks to become acclimated to wearing the appliance.
- Oral appliances are small and convenient making them easy to carry when traveling.
- Treatment with oral appliances is reversible and non-invasive.
The gold standard to treat these issues is the CPAP device. CPAP stands for continuous positive air flow. It is a device that you wear at night that pushes constant air pressure through the nose and into the throat. CPAP devices can resolve OSA in nearly 100% of cases. The issue with the CPAP device is patient compliance, long term compliance remains under 35%. For those with mild to moderate OSA who cannot tolerate CPAP devices an alternative therapy is an oral appliance. An oral appliance is a plastic device that fits in the mouth during sleep like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat, keeping the airway open during sleep and promoting adequate air intake. It has been shown to be effective in 50% to 90% of cases.
Oral appliances are a front-line treatment for snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. This small plastic device fits in the mouth during sleep like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat, keeping the airway open during sleep and promoting adequate air intake. Oral appliances may be used alone or in combination with other treatments for sleep-related breathing disorders, such as weight management, surgery or CPAP.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance that maintains an open, unobstructed airway in the throat when worn during sleep. Custom-made oral appliances are proven to be more effective than over-the-counter devices, which are not recommended as a screening tool nor as a therapeutic option.
Dentists with training in oral appliance therapy are familiar with the various designs of appliances and can help determine which is best suited for your specific needs. A board certified sleep medicine physician must first provide a diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatment approach. A dental sleep medicine specialist may then provide treatment and follow-up.
How Oral Appliances Work
- Repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula.
- Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue.
- Increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.